Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez (2nd from right) accompanied by Ako Bicol Party List Representative Elizaldy Co, Bulacan 3rd District Representative Lorna Silverio, Act-CIS Party List Representatives Erwin Tulfo and Edvic Yap, and National Irrigation Administration Administrator Eduardo Guillen inspects the Kapatiran Solar Pump Irrigation System on Friday, September 22 in Brgy. Sampaloc, San Rafael, Bulacan, with the intention of assessing the feasibility of implementing this system nationwide, hoping to introduce positive transformations in agricultural practices. – Photo by Harold T. Raymundo

SAN RAFAEL, Bulacan – Congressman Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, Speaker of the House of Representatives on Friday, September 22,  said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos, Jr. is eyeing an estimated P10 billion expected excess collection from the Rice Competetiveness  Enhancement Fund (RCEF) this year to expand the country’s irrigation capacity and subsidize farm inputs to cut production cost and increase farmer’s income.

At the same time, Speaker Romualdez said the House of Representatives, would move to allocate an additional P40 billion funding for irrigation projects under the 2024 national budget to support the President’s mission to increase agricultural production.

“Nakikita po natin, mukhang magkakaroon po tayo ng excess collections sa RCEF kaya sabi ng ating mahal na Pangulo dapat itong 10 billion (pesos) na excess collections, ipagamit natin dito sa ating mga magsasaka,” Speaker Romualdez said in his message during the presentation of solar-powered irrigation projects by the National Irrigation at the NIA Region 3 Office in Tambubong, San Rafael, Bulacan.

“At yung hinihingi lang naman sana kaya itong parang namumuhunan ang ating Presidente dito sa mga magsasaka para pagdating ng panahon na maaani itong mga palay, siguro, ipasa na lang ‘yung savings nito sa mamamayan para bumaba naman yung presyo ng ating bigas,” he added.

He said the President’s gesture manifests the Chief Executives’ firm resolve to boost agricultural production, particularly of rice, to ensure a stable supply of food for every Filipino family at affordable prices, and at the same time help improve the lives of our farmers.

Part of this effort is the President’s dream to eventually bring down the price of rice to P20 per kilo, according to Romualdez.

“Walang masamang mangarap at gumawa lahat ng paraan na ma-achieve natin ito,” Speaker Romualdez said.

Noting the crucial role of irrigation in boosting agricultural productivity, Speaker Romualdez said the House would grant NIA’s plea for additional funding, particularly for irrigation projects.

NIA has formally asked the House to restore around P90-billion worth of funding that was removed from the proposed 2024 budget for the agency.

“Yung mga hinihingi nila ay over P100 billion pero ang naibigay sa kanila ay mga P40 billion (lang) kaya mukhang makaka-realign tayo ng pondo na over P40 plus billion. So idodoble natin ‘yung nasa NEP (National Expenditure Program) para at least makakagalaw ang NIA,” Romualdez told reporters in an ambush interview.

Speaker Romualdez also lauded the solar-powered irrigation project of the agency in Bulacan province.

The House leader joined by other lawmakers, inspected the Kapatiran Solar Pump Irrigation Project at Brgy. Sampaloc, San Rafael, Bulacan.

Powered by 115 solar panels, the system irrigates 150 hectares of farmland, directly benefitting 114 farmers and their families.

Accompanying the Speaker were Appropriations Committee Chair Zaldy Co, Deputy Majority Leader for Communications Erwin Tulfo, ACT-CIS Party List Rep. Edvic Yap, and Bulacan 3rd District Rep. Lorna Silverio.

The Speaker was welcomed by Bulacan Vice Gov. Alex Castro, San Rafael Mayor Mark Violago, along with NIA Acting Administrator Eduardo Guillen.

The NIA has undertaken two other similar projects in the municipality of Bustos in Bulacan.

One, located in Brgy. Malamig, is powered by 334 solar panels and providing water for 350 hectares of farmland, while the other is in Brgy. Tibagan, with 1,112 solar panels and irrigating 1,200 hectares.

With the use of solar power, the project reduced the annual average electrical expenses of the farmer-beneficiaries to irrigate their farms by more than half.

For the Kapatiran project–the first to operate—reduction in electrical expense is estimated from between P900,000 to P1 million per year to only about P400,000 to P450,000 annually.

Likewise, a joint study of the Mindoro State University and University of the Philippines, Los Banos, found that by using solar-powered irrigation system, a farmer can save between 11.36 liters and 378.54 liters of diesel per hectare annually.

“Napapabilib ako dito sa mga solar irrigations systems na pwede pa rin nating gawin sa ibang parte ng ating bansa,” Speaker Romualdez said, saying such innovative solution deserve the support of Congress.

“Kung gamitin natin ang solar irrigation at lahat ng bagong concepts or ideas  sa pag-farming, we can increase productivity and efficiency.  Gagawin natin lahat para we can increase production and bring the prices of palay and ultimately rice,” he added.

The House is currently conducting plenary deliberations on the proposed P5.768 trillion proposed national budget for 2024 with the goal of approving the same on third and final reading next week before Congress goes on recess.

Likewise, he pointed out that the adoption of solar pump irrigation systems on a national scale aligns with the government’s commitment to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving natural resources.

The same MSU-UP study found that solar irrigation systems resulted in the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions of up to 26.5 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare annually and the avoidance of emissions of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter.

“By embracing these eco-conscious solutions, we can contribute to a more resilient and sustainable agricultural sector, safeguarding our environment for future generations,” Speaker Romualdez said.